Writing, blogging, and Reading, oh and coffee

After the previous glorious sunrises of the last two days, today is dull. The sun has not shown its face, the wind is howling by the windows. I haven’t like the previous days gone out. I have done something new today.

I made fresh coffee in the metal pots I discovered in the cupboard of the holiday cottage, stocked up, switched on the electric blanket and opened the laptop. I have been trawling through wordpress.com/tags/writing.  I have discovered such a wondrous community, with varying degrees of ability but all people taking the time to write. I have read tips and gained valuable knowledge which will make my blog better. I have read moving stories of peoples real lives, short inspiring stories, people with amazing gifts for words. I have followed people, wanting to find out more as they post. Will this be a burden on my time I wonder? I have been up hours and just spent time immersing myself in the writing world, this is the time I don’t often have. Even less so with NaNoWriMo around the corner, but I feel finding it and not carrying on would be a loss.

I constrained myself to a post a day, I didn’t need to. If you have something to say, say it, shout it, write it.   I have also dropped the [XX] number from the posts, it seems no one does that.

[36] Writing tools

It has been a few days since the last post. I am concentrating my efforts on completing and editing the book. I have also been away on a writing break, it didn’t initially start with much writing, as the family joined me. I was pleased with this, apart from my son’s insistence he wanted to go home, that was on the way to the cottage.  Additionally, he is nearly sixteen and not six. The cottage is very rural, several miles from civilisation but it is such as great place.  I was looking forward to it from the point the owner sent through a dossier of things about the cottage. It was thirty pages long, it had detailed instructions, step by step guide to reach my home for the next three nights. It looked to be deep across the moors. The instructions had dry day walks and wet day walks. The nearest pub is an hour and a half away on foot. It is everything you would expect for a rural cottage in the lakes. A massive open fire, a basket of chopped logs, coal, brilliant sunrises and sunsets over big hill and silence. I sit here writing this with just the sound of a ticking clock. The place doesn’t even have a television, the Wifi is slow. I love it.

The blog post is called writing tools, and there is a reason to this. I have purchased the full subscription to Grammarly. I have mentioned this device before, but I decided as it aids editing it would be worth the investment in the premium version. This came about as I thought as it was an online based tool, I would try and edit my Word document online, through Office365. I, however, came across an issue, it doesn’t work with Office online, however, it had a Word plugin. I heartily recommend it.  It was showing things missed that Word’s grammar checker wasn’t picking up. It also suggested quite a few premium items it had noticed. The number of them, shall we say I will keep to myself.  There were additional discounts that could be found as well.

I have just completed a section of my book, I needed some practical guidance with. Let me explain, it involved ( This might be a minor spoiler for unfriended, but doesn’t give too much away) the board game Scrabble.  A certain scenario occurs that requires the use of Scrabble as a means of communication. The cottage had a scrabble board.  I have spent the last hour recreating this scene and spelling out numbers with letters, SEVEN, FOUR etc.  I then thought I would see how it read and came across this website which allows you to paste text in and it can be read out by several different voices.  You can tailor the speed, change the auditor, probably my favourite is the one I think sounds like Graeme Garden from the Goodies. He’s done lots of things but will never lose that tag.  It’s still mechanical in part, but it also gives me another tool in the toolbelt.

I have just listened to this blog through it and will make changes, I did smile when Graeme said Office three hundred and sixty-five.

[35] Writing and getting excited

I’ve been taking a break from the blog, to concentrate on editing my novel. I decided I need some explicit rules around grammar. I was confused by the placement of quotes and full stops and next sentences. Word, as in Microsoft word didn’t help. I managed to get into some situations no matter what I did around quotes it always had the red squiggle. Also another thing, it was insistent, telling me that the word unfortunately, placed in the middle of a sentence should have an uppercase U. I started to search for some books on the subject. That’s when I came across a wonderful resource Grammar for Fiction Writers (Busy Writer’s Guides Book 5) by Chris Saylor & Marcy Kennedy. This is one of a series of guides. The guides are well constructed and really useful. Since I started reading them, I have made many edits to the book. Gone are words such as actually, very, a bit, replaced with better constructed descriptive sentences.

It was surprising when searching through the book, just how many occurrences of certain words that I use.

I have learned a lot just from this short book, the biggest takeaway, how quotes start on a new line if someone new is speaking. This might not be news for many people, but it made so much sense and increased legibility. It’s been enjoyable editing the book. I like writing don’t get me wrong. My daughter read a section that I was editing, she was highly complementary and asked “how do you come up with the ideas? Stating she would never be able to.”
I think everyone has a story to tell, I do think I can at times be creative. I’m starting to feel the book is coming along, satisfyingly. I’m excited. I have other books that I’m at various stages, which I now know I can improve. There are still edits and sections to be written.

I also need to work on the logistics, the synopsis is in one the blog posts for anyone interested. A quick overview is, the main character needs to lose his Facebook friends in 30 days. It’s more in-depth than that, there are twists and turns. He starts with over 5000, so tracking these specifics will take some time. I nearly wrote ‘a bit’ then but stopped myself. I need a timeline, with key points to make sure it flows and it’s correct.

I found a section of the book that I’d missed out. A minor character that I realised I hadn’t finished, possibly as I didn’t at the time know how this would happen. I do now. Again I am excited to write. I want to make this my thing, writing. Oh don’t get me wrong it’s not always easy, as I am not the most gifted when it comes to the English language, it takes effort but boy it is going to be worth it.

[34] Talking Italian

I thought I would update yesterday’s post into a longer one, as that was created while out after a few drinks, minutes before midnight.  So technically I have managed to continue the blog posts. That was all I achieved yesterday with regards to the continuation of my habit streaks, braining training and meditation are now firmly back at day 1.

Someone I know is considering doing nanowrimo, the national novel writing month which starts in November, which I have mentioned previously. I must admit when it was mentioned, I was envious as I have another idea for a book and would quite like to see where it goes. I have however one small matter of an unfinished one to deal with. I have decided I can’t start any new writing projects until I complete the existing one. So that means if I want to do it, I have just over two weeks to complete it. I have set out what I wanted to achieve with the blog, but it has taken time away from when I could have been completing “Unfriended” so I might start to reduce the frequency of the posts. The book had to be the number one priority.

I did say the other day I would share some of the “croftisms” that I had recently been reminded off. This particular one I think I must have blanked out on purpose.

Several years ago, I tried to start learning Italian, another one of my many projects. This involved a weekly night school course locally and some lunchtimes at work with a girl I worked with, who knew Italian. Needless to say, I wasn’t very good. I am not sure the Northern accent is made to speak fluent Italian. She was a great help however with my homework. It’s always good to have someone to ask questions and learn from.  Lunchtimes could be fun sat by the canal in Manchester trying to pick up some Italian. On one of these occasions, I was being taught some shall we say interesting phases that you wouldn’t learn in class. “Che cazzo fai?”  “porca puttana”  “stronso” and others similar. The first translates to “What the fuck are you doing”. I wrote them down as I tended to do with most of the words I was learning.  I completed my homework with assistance and handed it in at the class that evening. The teacher who was a middle-aged, dark-haired Italian woman pulled me to one side the following week and said “Martin, your homework is very good as usual” she then hesitated “But these words on the back” turning over the sheet “Are not very good, Italian’s do not like these phrases” Showing me the rude Italian works I had inadvertently written on the back of my homework.  I embarrassingly was very apologetic and tried to rationalise why I was writing rude works in the first place. She just smiled at me.

I thought after that incident that I wouldn’t make that mistake again and I didn’t. This time it was something else.

I managed to make it to the end of the course and the last night was an oral test. Everyone was going to speak for about five minutes in Italian, she would ask questions and there would be conversations. This was, fortunately, to be done in another room so no one had to listen to it. I’d had some issues with the trains back from Manchester and was running very late. It was a matter of quickly running into the house, getting out of my work clothes and shoes and getting dressed for the class. I grabbed my trainers from the cupboard in the hallway. This cupboard is one of those under the stairs dumping grounds that’s always a nightmare to find things. There is no light and I was relieved to be able to find my trainers as quickly as I had. I was at that point about 15 minutes late.  I jumped into the car and set off. It’s about 10 minutes to the class with traffic lights. I was just around the corner when I noticed something didn’t feel right with the clutch peddle.  Then I noticed on my left foot was a grey Karrimor style walking boot and on my right an Adidas blue suede trainer. How the hell had I managed to do that without noticing? I looked at the time and realised that it just wasn’t feasible to go back home. If it wasn’t the last week I would have skipped it entirely. I had no choice but to continue. Maybe no one would notice. I parked up and started walking, they were entirely different heights. I entered red-faced before I had even started “Buonasera Martin” The teacher said as I entered. I slunk down at the table I sat at with several other people. Thinking I could get away with it I then realised that everyone would notice when we went for our break. There was nothing I could do and then preceded to try and explain why I had two completely different shoes on a bewildered table full of people.



[33] Friday the 13th

Is more or less irrelevant. I’m not superstitious, I don’t walk under ladders as that’s a stupid thing to do anyway. I do recall working with someone who was very superstitious, he wouldnt go to events if he got ticket no 13. Which if I’m honest is highly unlikely and extremly unlucky. Weird as I had thought today’s post was going to be just ‘Today has been rather dull’ the end ,and nothing more but I when given the opportunity to write it starts to flow. I’m again writing on the app. Yesterday I inadvertently missed off the image and had to repost.

I’m trying to recall whats happened today, other that work and I’m struggling, certainly nothing of note anyway.

Hey it’s Saturday the 14th tomorrow surely something must happen. There is a small matter of a game of football at lunchtime. Liverpool v Man united. I feel little will be achieved this weekend but we’ll see.

[32] An extra hour

Turns out the nice train with the tables was a one off. Northern rail again twart my cunning plans. I seem to be more productive in the mornings than the evenings and therefore I am going to try a later train. It might be only an hour more in the morning, meaning staying an hour later but if it moves me towards my goals it’s definetly worth the sacrifice. As it’s Friday tomorrow I’ll start Monday. Who wants to still be in the office later than needed on a Friday.

Update: This is the first blog written entirely on my phone on the wordpress app.

[31] The little things

It’s amazing how the little things impact us. I got up this morning not wanting to get out of bed, the alarm had gone just after 6AM to allow me to get the 6.55AM train. I used to never use an alarm clock, when did that change I wonder? I press snooze and 10 minutes later I am still there. I mustn’t have pressed it properly. I force myself to get up and get showered.  I wander into the kitchen to try and a make a brew. My son is asleep on the Kitchen floor. This probably needs an explanation, he’s on a mattress. His room is being painted, it was his decision to sleep here, but only after he decided to move his computer to the kitchen table.  I managed to make a brew without waking him.

Kitchen PC

He’s asleep in the space behind the PC on a mattress.

I was conscious of the time, as I would have to leave soon. I hadn’t done my stretches.I left not long later, I had done the minimal of stretching. I had my headphones in my pocket, should I carry on with my podcast, should I read my audiobook? Once at the train should I write, it’s always challenging on the very cramped seats with my Microsoft surface (other laptops are available) or should I read.  I had put the book I am currently reading Fool Moon in my bag this morning. As I walked its very windy, winter is coming, how can you ever say that statement and not think of anything other than a game of thrones I ponder. It’s eerie, my walk takes me down a dimly lit passage with a few street lamps, it feels very Harry Potter. I think I should try and get all the popular culture references in, maybe today’s blog will reach more people because of it.  I like the way the street lamps illuminate the surrounding trees and bushes, making the dark patches even more inky black. I wonder, would I walk down this way if the light were out. I once thought I saw a shadowy figure behind one of the trees across the street, I could have sworn someone was there but when I checked there was no one. It always makes me ponder what I did see that day.

Weirdly the passage gives me a smile and brightens my day. I enjoyed the walk this morning, albeit short as it was it lifted my spirits.

I await the train, I haven’t got my headphone out or made any decisions. The train pulls in, it’s not the usual one. It has bright new carriages, new seats and saving the best to last seating with tables. Oh my, my heart skips, my decision is made for me. I smile.  I will write.

I silently hope this is to be regular train as I sit here finishing today’s blog and moving onto editing my book.

[30] Writing Break

Mini writing trip to a very rural cottage in the lakes.

Tomorrow, I will have written this blog for a full month. I never envisaged that I would be still going at this point.

I’ve just booked a writing break/family get together in the lakes at the end of the month. How much writing I will mange we’ll see. This was booked through Airbnb, today the owner emailed me the most comprehensive Information package and direction sheet I have seen. It was a work of art, it is thirty pages long. It even introduces the neighbours (Bob & Margaret), it includes walks with maps, walks for a dry day and walks for wet days, nothing is left out.The direction sheet had Google Streetview photos, which seeing (the photo above) I have a feeling it’s going to be quite rural. The instructions contained information for power outages and there’s a supply of bottled water in a shed. There’s a page on just the instructions to maximise the heat from the open fire. There are lots of things I am looking forward to.  There is a room with a projector and a Wii, unbeknown to my son I will be taking a game I found while clearing out all the clutter in my office.  Tony Hawks down Jam Hill, we played this so much when he was younger and I look forward to beating him yet again. I think this break will be a story in itself.

On another note, I have managed to get more information around some of the stupid things that I have done in the past, I really can’t think how I managed to blank these out of my mind. So will be sharing some of these over the coming days.



[29] The room where time stops

I’ve always wanted a room in which time doesn’t move. It just freezes the very moment you enter to the moment you leave. I could take anything to this room even a laptop with the internet. Obviously, this doesn’t exist but it would be amazing and oh things you could do. You could learn everything you ever dreamed of. I recall this as I briefly crammed in some stretching this morning and looked around the living room. I see lots of unfinished things, stuff that shouts to me “Oi Martin what about me, when you going to sort me out. There’s a Xbox voucher for 3 months access, that’s been sat there for months, there’s a mindful gift I got for my birthday off my beautiful daughter in July than needs a daily commitment which I’ve given about three continuous days
There’s a novel writing book, the drawing pins box from yesterday, a lean in 15 book, which has never had a recipe made from it. The Guardian paper that I bought yesterday as part of the 99 tasks and for the free virtual reality headset, the baskets in the living room are another thing entirely. They are crammed with hidden things out of sight but I know they are watching. Ok if I only had my special room that I could drag all these things into them and come out seconds later with every open loop closed and that’s just the living room. Every room I enter the voices call to me. “Pick me Martin pick me” but all the voices are the same level there isn’t one that shouts with authority ” I am the one to do next, you know that” occasionally the voices annoy I find a window to do some ‘organisation’. I choose at random what gets my attention, I choose over whelming tasks I open the basket and piles things out. There is no time room to take them to. They get spread out across the floor, these items of curiosity. I get distracted. I make vague inroads and time is sucked from me. The place is a mess. I collate all my piles of wonders together, they go back in the basket the lids shuts better than it before ever so slightly. That’s a success right?, I con myself .
Even now as I write this on the train, I’d decided I wouldn’t write the book this morning but I would read a novel. I don’t read enough, I berate myself , but I am now doing something else instead.

I’m silently screaming in my head. I wonder if I didn’t take on a single new thing how long it would take to put all the curiosities and things I started, to bed. Life doesn’t work like that does it. Can you press the pause button and crack on with other things? and if you can which one do you do when there is so many. As I metophocially drag the list of unfinished things to the room where time stops.

[28] 85 Days till the end of the year

Today could well be the shortest post I have written so far. With regards to writing, today hasn’t been that inspiring. I am just reviewing the 99 things I said I would achieve by the end of the year. So I then decide I’ll post the 99 things. I keep the list in Google Keep as checklists hence the ticked off items ( at the bottom). I have managed so far 9, so 90 still to do and 85 days to achieve them. I will pick out 10 for the next week.

Going through the list  I noted some duplication so these have been changed to be added (TBD) at a point in the not too distant future

99 things in 99 days

  • 1 Get below 90 kg ( Currently at 91.0 but did make it to 90.4)
  • 3 Go somewhere never been before
  • 4 Read a Joe Abercrombie book
  • 5 finish the book
  • 6 Enter a story into a competition
  • 7 Walk 20k steps in Manchester
  • 8 Eat at work for a full week
  • 9 Drink 3 bottles of water ( 1lt bottles ) in a day
  • 10 Do 1 task a day for 1 week
  • 12 TBD
  • 13 keep spending diary for 1 week
  • 14 purchase £250 shares
  • 15 purchase £250 shares
  • 16 Try selling and buying bitcoins ( Already sold hoping for a price drop it hasn’t happened so far! oops)
  • 17 Cook dinner party
  • 18 Walk stairs at work for a day
  • 19 Brain training for 21 days
  • 20 Listen to 3 audiobooks
  • 21 Read a book had on my bookshelf for ages
  • 22 Eat salt and pepper chicken
  • 23 Do something out of comfort some
  • 24 Write a poem and enter in contest
  • 25 Write 1000 word story
  • 26 Walk down alphabetical Street Manchester – so A-Z
  • 27 Photo on Instagram for 5 days
  • 28 Swap a book on book swap
  • 29 Chat to some writing bloggers
  • 30 Eat Chinese food
  • 31 Catch leaves in a wood
  • 32 Draft idea for cover
  • 33 Go to the seaside
  • 34 Watch star wars Last Jedi
  • 35 Go cinema with Hannah
  • 36 Watch football in the pub
  • 37 Buy something for someone
  • 39 Watch something on top 10 series on NetFlicks
  • 40 Tweet 5 things in a day
  • 41 Act of kindness for homeless person
  • 42. Do something for Hannah (Daugther, I know she is trying to read this so if you do get to this bit don’t  worry I’ll make sure it’s cheap :). Text me when to actually read this with the word spatula) 
  • 43 Do something for Leo (son)
  • 44 Do something for Julie (wife)
  • 45 Do something for Helen (sister)
  • 46 Do something for Mum (er Mother)
  • 47 Withheld as someone might see this and spoil it
  • 48 Listen to a new band
  • 49 Listen to a new podcast
  • 50 Ask XXXX about her published book, name remove to protect the innocent 
  • 51 Watch a SQL bits video
  • 52 Buy a chocolate bar not eaten in years
  • 53 Do something seen on Lancashire tourist info
  • 54 Eat somewhere never eaten before
  • 55 Order something off internet, not from Amazon
  • 56 Buy a new cheese
  • 57 Smile at someone while walking in the streets of Manchester, taking my life into my own hands
  • 58 Post something of random to someone as a gift
  • 59 Jog
  • 60 Dance
  • 61 Try and speak to someone you haven’t for a while
  • 62 Eat a flavour of crisps never tried
  • 63 Bake something
  • 64 TDB
  • 65 Buy something for Hannah birthday
  • 66 Buy something for Leo birthday
  • 68 Take a photo in Manchester of something unique
  • 69 Catch a falling leaf
  • 71 Play cards
  • 74 Read a novella
  • 75 Walk from Buckshaw train station 
  • 76 Sit in a booth in Costa
  • 78 Buy a different coffee
  • 79 List all books owned in good reads
  • 80 Visit martincroft sign ( I have a road named after me!)
  • 82 Buy a magazine not bought previously 
  • 83 Enter competition in a magazine
  • 84 Buy a new shirt
  • 85 Buy new trainers
  • 87 Look into company car
  • 88 Finish my dad wrote a porno
  • 89 Find another podcast I like
  • 90 List all things started and not completed
  • 91 Decide on user group session and create it
  • 92 Sign up for Pluralsite for a month
  • 93 Bake bread in bread maker
  • 94 Eat somewhere new
  • 95 Read a book recommended
  • 96 Blog 50 times
  • 97 TBD
  • 98 TBD
  • 99 TBD
  • 2 Gym streak of 5 days
  • 11 Meditate for twenty-one days
  • 67 Drink something different (Tried Aperol Spritzer not that nice)
  • 70 Swim one work morning
  • 72 inbox zero all email accounts
  • 73 buy the guardian
  • 77 sit somewhere different on train
  • 81 go to 5 guys
  • 86 Finish python course